Robert Rankin

photo credit: Kevin Madison

Robert Rankin (b. 1994) is an Indiana based composer of concert and theatre music. His works are characterized by colorful orchestration, a neoclassical nod to the past, and a deep love of narrative storytelling through music.

Robert’s music has been commissioned and performed by the Burning Coal Theater Company, the Lux Quartet, Split The Lark, and several middle school and high school wind ensembles across the country. He has attended the Atlantic Music Festival (2014) and the Brevard Music Center (2016, 17) where he worked as both a composer and teaching assistant. In addition, he has received several awards and honors including from New York’s Tribeca New Music in which he was named an “Emerging Composer” in 2015 for his Clarinet Quartet.

Upcoming premieres include a large scale flute sonata for Noah Cline,a second string quartet, and a new work for the Indiana University Symphonic Band set to premiere in mid 2018.

Robert is currently pursing a Masters Degree in composition from the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music and received his Bachelor’s Degree in Music Education from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.

about Nijinsky Dances:

Nijinsky Dances is a piece that has been swirling around in my head for a number of years. I’ve always wanted to write a toe-tapping, pulsating, danceable concert opener. The hard part, of course, is being musically concise by making a big statement in a relatively short time frame. Pieces such as Dvorak’s Carnival, John Adam’s Short Ride in a Fast Machine, or Stravinsky’s Fireworks (and Oliver Knussen’s equally as brilliant Flourish with Fireworks) are constructed in such a way that the audience rides the wave of musical momentum and excitement up until the very end. Its a tough thing to do!

Concerning the title, Valslav Nijinsky has often been described as the greatest male dancer of the 20th century. In addition, Nijinsky was arguably the greatest choreographer of the 20th century as well, choreographing such landmark ballets such as Debussy’s L’après-midi d’un faune, Strauss’ Till Eulenspiegel, and Stravinsky’s Le Sacre du Printemps. Myself, along side countless other concert goers, rank these early 20th century ballets as some of our top pieces. In Nijinsky Dances, I create a quasi “pocket concerto for orchestra” that highlights each section of the orchestra doing what they do best while making subtle reference to the masterful orchestration of those famous ballet scores.

The work begins with the curtain rising on beat one, with a brash Russian-esque fanfare. Shortly afterwards, the orchestra becomes almost possessed or haunted by “ghostly” appearances of musical quotes from some of Nijinsky’s famous ballets. As the piece continues, the Russian gestures of the opening become infused with more driving and rhythmic motives, almost something along the lines of modern day pop music. The piece ends with both types of dance music lying on top of one another.

listen to an excerpt of Nijinsky Dances